With rumors about guys like Madison Bumgarner, Marcus Stroman, and Trevor Bauer circulating, it’s time to check out five of the league’s best players who could be traded as the trade deadline approaches.
Max Scherzer is one of the best pitchers in baseball, but with the Nationals in a position where they could fire their manager and begin a serious rebuild of their farm system, it’s at least worth a look for the Nationals to see what he could be traded for. It’s worth noting that Scherzer did suffer a broken nose on Tuesday while practicing bunting, but he still pitched the next night, meaning he will be back to normal strength — and potentially fully healed — by the trade deadline.
Scherzer, a former Diamondbacks first-round pick, is a six-time all star and three-time Cy Young winner. Now 34, Scherzer has only been traded once in his life. But the one trade he was involved in was a big one, as it included several players who've spent much of their life in the majors, such as Curtis Granderson, Edwin Jackson, Austin Jackson, and Ian Kennedy. Scherzer was consistent in Arizona and again when he was traded to Detroit, but he never really took off until 2013, when he was named to his first All-Star Game and was named the Cy Young award winner after a masterful 21-3 season when he posted a 2.90 ERA and league-best 0.970 WHIP. Ever since, Scherzer has been named to the All-Star Game in every season, and could extend his streak to seven if he earns the honors again this season.
So far this season, the Nats ace is 5-5 with a 2.81 ERA in 15 starts. He has yet to post a complete game, putting a five-year streak on the line, but of course he still has several months to go. Through 99.1 innings, Scherzer has allowed 34 runs on 87 hits, including just eight home runs. He’s only walked 20 batters, but more impressively, he has struck out a whopping 136, leading the league in that category. Scherzer has two-and-a-half years of team control remaining, but this season is the last one that Scherzer can’t veto a trade, obviously making it that much tougher for him to be trades in 2020 or 2021. Scherzer has a base salary of more than $30 million this season, but his contract states that he only receives a bit more than $15 million up front while an additional $15 million is deferred to after his contract expires.
Marcus Stroman, despite being dubbed as one of the American League’s best pitchers, is still worthy of being called underrated, as reflected by some of his stats. The stat that masks his underratedness the most is his record of 4-9, which is more reflective of the Blue Jays team that he plays on and not as much the way he pitches.
As for trade talks, Stroman is one of the top candidates to be traded, and while he says he loves Canada and the city of Toronto, he told reporters recently that the Blue Jays don’t appear to have any interest in signing him to an extension, so he believes his time is nearing an end in Toronto and understands his name consistently comes up in trade rumors. Stroman, a former Blue Jays first-round pick, doesn’t quite have the accolades Scherzer has, but he does have one award Scherzer doesn’t: a Gold Glove award, which he earned in 2017, the same year he finished eighth in Cy Young voting.
As mentioned, Stroman’s win-loss record shouldn’t tell you anything about his pitching. In fact, it’s worth noting that Stroman is on pace for career highs in many categories, including starts, innings pitched, and batters faced. In total so far, Stroman has thrown 94.2 innings in 16 starts, amassing a 3.23 ERA by allowing 43 runs on 91 hits, including nine home runs. He’s also allowed 29 walks and 71 strikeouts this season. Following this season, Stroman will be eligible for Arbitration Level 4, essentially keeping him locked down through 2020 without yet having a set contract value for next season.
Madison Bumgarner is and has been one of the top NL starters, but with the Giants preparing to break down their pitching staff and ship them off for prospects, Bumgarner’s name is one of the most interesting and oft-mentioned. Bumgarner has struggled a bit this season, but his status as a proven pitcher should be enough to garner a decent return if he’s traded.
The seasons from 2011 to 2016 were definitely the best in Bumgarner’s career; during that time he had led the league in single-season complete games, single-season starts, and single-season batters faced, while being named a four-time All-Star and a four-time finisher in the Top 10 for Cy Young voting. His strong performances in the #PitchersWhoRake campaign has also earned him two Silver Slugger awards.
The former Giants’ first-round pick and veteran of 10-and-a-half big-league seasons is, as mentioned, struggling a bit, but he would still be a valuable pick-up for any starting rotation. Through 15 starts this season, MadBum has posted a 3.87 ERA and 3-6 record, allowing 48 runs on 89 hits in 93 innings while striking out 90 batters and walking just 20. Despite having more than 12 full seasons of pro baseball experience, Bumgarner is on just his second baseball contract. But that comes to an end soon — no more club options, and obviously no more arbitration. Bumgarner is a half-season rental, which puts the Giants in an inferior position in trade negotiations.
For several seasons now, White Sox first baseman José Abreu’s name has come up in trade discussions, but yet he still remains in Chicago. While it’s unlikely this trade deadline will have a different outcome, there’s still that chance that the two-time All-Star and former AL Rookie of the Year could be dealt. Abreu’s first four big-league seasons were easily the best, but he continues to impress even in his sixth major league season.
Abreu has appeared in 71 games this season, slashing .267/.309/.516 with 75 hits. His 17 home runs and AL-leading 54 runs batted in are on pace to break Abreu’s personal bests. Abreu has also walked 17 times while striking out 71, something that he is on pace to do more than his career-high 140 times.
The former amateur free agent has never spent time in the minors, as he signed his deal with the White Sox at the end of October 2013 and made the team out of Spring Training in 2014. His first contract was a six-year, $68 million deal but he opted out of that with three years and $34 million remaining, making him arbitration eligible. He avoided arbitration by agreeing to one-year deals for the 2017, 2018, and 2019 seasons that brought his career earnings up to nearly $75 million, but that streak ends this year as Abreu becomes an unrestricted free agent this offseason.
Trevor Bauer (along with teammate Corey Kluber) has been the name kicked around in most of the Indians’ trade rumors since the Winter Meetings in December, with the strongest reports linking the former first-round pick to the San Diego Padres. Bauer, now 28, is a one-time All-Star who finished sixth in the 2017 Cy Young voting. He posted an impressive 17-win season in 2016 that didn't award him any accolades, which, if anything, goes to show that this is someone you want on your team.
Bauer is 5-6 this season through 16 games, a game log on pace to surpass his previous best. He posted his first career shutout this season; he leads all of baseball with the most shutouts this season (one). Bauer has also pitched 108.1 innings, a number which leads all of baseball and is likely on pace to surpass Bauer’s previous best of 190. Bauer has allowed 50 runs (on pace for a career worst) on 76 hits, including 13 home runs. He has walked 45 batters and struck out 117, two categories in which Bauer is expected to break a career high. He has also plunked a major-league-leading 11 batters, a number that already ties his career worst. Finally, Bauer has faced a MLB-most 451 batters this season, which is on pace to break his career high.
Bauer was drafted in 2011 by the Diamondbacks but was traded just over a year later to the Indians in a deal that also consisted of Shin-Soo Choo and Didi Gregorius, among others. A few years later, Bauer would sign a pair of one-year deal with the Indians before agreeing to another one in 2017 to avoid arbitration before settling for contracts through the arbitration process in 2018 and 2019. He’s been forced to go to arbitration two of the three possible times, and perhaps could be due for a third visit as he is Arbitration 4 eligible after this season concludes. Bauer would be a great rental for most teams, but would Cleveland really part ways with him?